startup feedback from early users

When A Startup Is Gaining Momentum

When a startup is gaining momentum in its early stages, there are many issues that arise.  One of the main dilemmas is that the team has to strike a balance between releasing products and services that may not be 100% where they should be.  Of course, every company wants to ensure that their users have the best experience possible.  However, in this day and age, if updates or features are delayed, this could mean that your first users start losing faith in your company, which can cause irreparable damage to your reputation.  Every company has to find a way to maneuver this problem by satisfying their customers as much as possible while still making sure that any momentum is never lost.  The bottom line is that there are all sorts of various degrees where one priority has to overtake the other – for example, it is common sense for a company to not shut their entire company down to make sure that they add a feature that would appeal to a few of their users, even if they are loyal.  This is because it would be a move that would turn away the majority of their users at a critical stage, when they may be trying to lure users away from competitors.

Steve Huffman at Reddit points out that it was actually a blessing in disguise that they launched so early on, and were able to tweak so many of the features by communicating with Reddit’s first users.  He even points out that a quarter of the features that they tried only lasted one day, but that experimentation was extremely important when it came to building loyalty, as users saw how responsive the company was when it came to taking down features that didn’t work, and keeping features that did.  This was a unique situation because Reddit didn’t have a concrete vision like many other companies, which means that it had its own unique problems, but created its own advantages when it came to adapting to its initial user base.

Concept of Dropbox

Every company has a different approach.  For example, the concept of Dropbox was so necessary at the time, that it was able to gain a significant user base by simply explaining the concept of the company in a video – which led to many people signing up for a newsletter.  This worked specifically for Dropbox, but of course would not work for every idea or startup.

Importance of Setting Deadlines

It also is important to set deadlines that are realistic and that don’t sacrifice too much.  We all know that a product could mean that your startup is monetized, but what if somehow this product or service compromises users’ data because you rushed it out, and didn’t go through the proper steps to ensure that what you are offering is secure?  You have now lost your user’s trust before they even really engaged with the company, and have tainted your reputation at its earliest steps.  There is no doubt that this means your startup will have an extremely uphill battle, and could even mean near-certain failure.  It is important to find a way to provide the best product or service, as soon as possible, without making long-term mistakes that mean that your startup will suffer later on.

Users will Ultimately help Guide your Startup

Your users will ultimately help guide your startup, and this can be a great thing – it means that you have users that are interested and engaged in your company, and are interested in improving it (in their eyes).  However, what if you find out that what you thought your customers wanted, really isn’t what they wanted?  You may have had a plan set out for several years to achieve certain goals that actually matter much less, now that you realized that customers aren’t engaging with your company for the reason that you thought they were.

Every Startup Has a Vision

This can be a very trying time.  Every startup has a vision, and it can be very discouraging to find out that your users actually are engaged with your product or service for different reasons than you had hoped.  This also could lead to something that entrepreneurs call “the big redesign”.  This might mean much more work, time, and energy than you can imagine.  It could be rebuilding your entire website or app.  It might be scrapping out huge components of your company in order to replace them.  As one can imagine, many people may want to give up at this stage, but some of the best companies have pivoted to create a better experience for their users.  These redesigns could lead to a higher engagement rate with your existing users, and to new users and demographics that you hadn’t previously considered.  As a result, this may ultimately lead to success, after a lot of work and strategizing.

People Involved In a Startup Are Usually Strong And Innovative

The bottom line is that people involved in a startup are usually strong and innovative people with very clear visions about what they want to do.  However, there is a drawback when ego and obstinance gets in the way of what is actually working.  Every startup needs to be able to adapt to their users and understand when something is not working.  There are many companies that have failed because they were convinced that users would “catch on”, or “understand later”, about a certain product or service.  By the time that they realize they are becoming less relevant to users, it might be too late – as customers may have already moved on, or a competitor may have been able to incorporate the particular functions that were desired.  There are even startups that make the fatal mistake of never actually really ever taking the time to communicate to users.  Of course, one can imagine how users would revert to another app or company who is more receptive to their ideas or suggestions.  This is not to suggest that every user is always right, but to prevent your team’s own cognitive bias from feeling as though a certain feature is working when it isn’t, or that a certain feature is temporary, when it is very clear that users want it to be permanent.